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Companies

Aeon to use facial recognition at 80 China self-serve stores

Smart supermarkets anticipate customer purchases upon store entry

Facial recognition technology is already being used by various businesses in China, including a hotel run by Alibaba. (Photo by Yusho Cho)

TOKYO -- Aeon, Japan's largest retailer by sales, will soon debut a chain of self-serve smart stores in China that can anticipate what a customer will buy upon entering the establishment.

Aeon plans to convert 80 of its roughly 480 Chinese retail outlets into smart stores within the next few years. Facial-recognition technology installed in the stores will identify shoppers. Customers' smartphones will then display recommended items and coupons based on purchasing habits and digital payment history.

The system will improve the shopping experience and is expected to attract customers, Aeon says. At the same time, point-of-sale data will be used to automate product orders from the store. By not staffing the cash registers, labor costs can be held down.

To accelerate the development of the digital technology needed for store management, the group will as soon as this month establish a wholly owned unit, Aeon Digital Management Center, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. In addition, Aeon is planning to launch an online supermarket in the country this year, as well as a cross-border e-commerce platform. The transaction histories generated by these digital operations will bolster the retailer's smart shopping project.

The company will build up its expertise on the mainland, a hotbed of technology-driven retail businesses. The retailer will later bring the concept to stores in Japan and Southeast Asia.

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